Discover: THE LAST AMERICAN ALCHEMISTS
Discover: THE LAST AMERICAN ALCHEMISTS
A lifetime of adventures culminates in a knock-down-drag-out court battle that is THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA meets ERIN BROKOVICH
A lifetime of adventures culminates in a knock-down-drag-out court battle that is THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA meets ERIN BROKOVICH Read more
Four years ago, he paused outside of Courtroom 15 of the SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, MONTEREY. With blood pressure soaring and vertigo making it difficult to focus visually as well as mentally, he stopped to regain his balance. He had just appeared in his first hearing PRO PER (representing himself). He had been granted a continuance: ROUND ONE: VICTORY.
As he stood at the top of the stairs watching the foot traffic ascend and descend, he was struck by what messes his generation had made of the world. While he didn’t take all of the blame, he was deeply sorry that he hadn’t done anything to prevent them.
HE DECIDED THEN AND THERE TO CHANGE THAT
And for four years he battled two (anyone one can fight one) of the biggest corporations in the world with their string of big city lawyers that could have gotten Saddam Hussein exonerated -- and were out to demolish him.
The court battle is all but over now. Though his health is in serious decline, his dedication has not flagged in a tradition set by a distant ancestor with the same last name, an admiral in the Revolutionary Navy. A true life courtroom drama that draws on a half-century of profound -- often spiritual -- experiences and lessons
The Last American Alchemists is an autobiography written in the third person in the genre of creative nonfiction. Entirely factual, it is the style I have chosen because of the distance and objectivity it offers.
SO WHAT MAKES THIS GUY THINK HE CAN DO THIS?
I have years of experience writing in almost every form except bad checks. I have won awards for my editing, writing and photography. I have a team of professionals to help with editing and production. We have published two other books. Perhaps more significantly from a spiritual point of view, my life is filled with profound coincidences related to books that make this work predestined:
Like when I was four, I lived next-door to Irving Stone. His Vincent Van Gogh bio, LUST FOR LIFE, was being made into a movie at the time. While we didn’t talk books (my taste at the time ran along the lines of THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD), he did offer severe instructions about not touching the game pieces on the monopoly board as he and his wife played in their ocean-front yard. His works have been a source of inspiration and instruction to me as an adult.
Like when I made the decision to try writing full time and within days found myself invited to a table headed by James A. Michener during the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. His book IBERIA was on the top of the best seller list at the time.
Unbeknownst to me, I became the prototype for Joe in Mr. Michener’s novel THE DRIFTERS.
He would later serve as a generous mentor and supporter of my writing, issuing the great compliment: “You know what a sentence and a paragraph are and most don’t.”
Like Joe in Michener’s The Drifters, I went on to Africa after meeting him in Pamplona. I received my draft notice in Kenya in 1968 and elected to come home and serve. While in the Army, I started getting magazine stories and photographs published. I also began working on a first novel, which garnered enthusiasm and encouragement from Mr. Michener, who extended an introduction to his editor at Random House, Albert Erskine.
Mr. Erskine also had in his stable of authors John O’Hara and William Faulkner. He submitted my work to the editorial board but was not successful in getting support for publication. While disappointing, the rejection included an invitation to send the editor everything else I would write. Mr. Michener added generous encouragement, “Remember, we have all said that you can write.”
I was encouraged to get on with another project, which I did. It had its nexus in conversations with the father of a little Japanese American girl on a K-division soccer team that I coached. The California schoolyard where we practiced had a great view of the Pacific Ocean and the beach cities extending from Palos Verdes almost to Ventura, 90 miles to the north. He quietly informed me that his family had once owned this land. It was then that I became aware of the extent of the Japanese Americans’ plight as a result of their internment during World War II.
Picturing that sweet little girl being ripped out of her home and sent to Manzanar formed the basis of my next project, BUTTERFLIES, BELLS, and MIRRORS. But by the time I had finished, Mr. Erskine had retired and Mr. Michener had died.
My big break had come and gone. I was back at square one in search of support; all possible approaches to editors, publishers, and agents were exhausted. Trying to get a first novel published isn’t a piece of cake: Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell had 38 rejections before being published; Stephen King’s Carrie 30; even Harry Potter was turned down 9 times.
I enrolled in several writers’ workshops and when excerpts were read aloud, classes broke into an ovation on more than one occasion. I was perplexed. People loved the story but I couldn't find a publisher or even an agent who might.
Newly divorced -- I say I had 15 good years of marriage but the thing lasted 20 -- I moved to a bare piece of land in Monterey County, California. I built the home, planted the grapes; doing 90 percent of the work myself. Dedicated to the construction, I put the manuscript aside, occasionally sending out a copy as a new agent came to my attention.
Then in my mid forties, I was wondering if I was nuts to keep at writing. I had received substantial encouragement yet remained unpublished in book form. Perhaps qualifying as one of those synchronistic events, OPRAH came out with a book recommendation on the subject of life callings, entitled THE SOUL’S CODE by James Hillman. In her presentation the book seemed to offer some answer to my question.
It did: confirming my reverence for books, bookstores, libraries and the processes of writing; writing is my soul’s code. But what was more confirming was a little book I purchased on a whim that was displayed at checked out. The cover of the book gave no hint that it was going to be about Japanese Americans before, during and after World War II. But after reading only a few pages, I had to put it down. It was my story Butterflies Bells and Mirrors. My book, WALDO, chronicles that discovery (an enormous coincidence considering why I had gone to that bookstore) and the quest for confirmation of plagiarism.
I do not mention the name of the “other book.” While there were around 100 similarities between the two works, I considered the possibility it was a colossal series of the coincidences (that I so often encounter). One thing I did not want to do was wrongfully accuse another writer who had a break-out success. If he did produce his work independently, then he would go on to write other books of equal or greater quality. Ten years have passed and he hasn't Oh he has written several other books, and as one reviewer politely wrote, “They haven’t received the readership enthusiasm of his first.”
I have read one of those later books and parts of two others. To borrow a phrase from Dorothy Parker, “These books shouldn't just be tossed aside lightly. They should be thrown with great force.” That discovery led me to self-publish all future work.
I had years of award-winning editorial experience and -- another coincidence -- there was a professional book editor who lived two miles from me. It turns out we also went to kindergarten together in Santa Barbara County some 200 miles to the south and a half century earlier.
My second book, THE WRATH OF GRAPES: How Not to Start a Winery, has sold everywhere it has been offered. It has had great reviews. Three people who have been to the ranch and who personally know Tom Hanks -- two are producer/actors themselves -- have said that he should do the movie. They all sent copies to Mr. Hanks. But I haven’t heard from Tom. Maybe when combined with the LAST AMERICAN ALCHEMISTS?
MORE TESTIMONIALS AND REVIEWS ARE AVAILABLE ON MY WEBSITE WWW.VOLODELCORVO.COM
SO WHEN IS HE GOING TO DO IT?
I am working on THE LAST AMERICAN ALCHEMISTS from an extensive outline. The beginning and end are written. I will be ready to revise and edit by October and will send it to my kindergarten classmate (now also an author in her own right) for editing. Publication date will be May 1, 2014.
These last four years have taken their toll. I have taken some pretty good punches and landed a few myself. The spirit is inherited: “I have not yet begun to fight.”
Thank you for your support. I hope you enjoy the read; better yet, the reads.
P.S. One more coincidence to share. In my video I mention that I have frequently experienced coincidences with Dean Koontz’s works. I had been reading OUT OF THE CORNER OF HIS EYE and had a bookmark on a page where one of his character’s, Celestina, has just had a successful first showing of her paintings at a San Francisco art gallery.
I had set the book on the passenger seat of my car as I went into a little local boutique to inquire if they would like to carry my books. The response was affirmative and the manager added that they were having a book signing for local writers in two weeks and invited me to participate. I thought that was kinda neat: as I am reading about the Koontz character getting a show, I am invited to one of my own.
Even better: the manager of the book boutique’s name was Celestina.
Late breaking: As this is being sent to Kickstarter on August 8, 2013, the news headlines are announcing criminal investigations of the major banks. Could be another paving stone. A tipping point?
While a settlement in my suit was reached on April 10, 2013. No payment has been made by the banks. A settlement agreement authored by an attorney who was not present at the hearing and did not have the hearing transcript was submitted but I have declined to sign it. Among other works of fiction in the agreement was terms restricting disclosure. There were no such terms in the hearing. The attorneys continue to be horses’ asses (and that is as clean as I can make it for the family website).
The Tipping Point for Honesty and Decency is NOW! I will be posting updates of events on my blog on my website: www.volodelcorvo.com click on the word BLOG. You can participate in the unfolding of this story as well as be a very welcome and appreciated supporter. Let’s all give it a nudge.
About the Rewards:
The postcard/bookmarker: The cover art with the quote from Edmund Burke inserted will grace the front (note all artwork in all publications is by the author). All will have a personal handwritten thank you and signature from me.
All references to “the book” are to the current project, The Last American Alchemists.
WALDO Is a maroon hardbound, beautifully adorned with gold embossed lettering and cover art, protected by the dustcover (shown). It is a true story about moving to the country and becomes a detective story where the suspected crime is plagiarism. The Kickstarter offering is at a about a 25% discount under retail. See www.volodelcorvo.com for details and endorsements and reviews. All copies will be personally signed with a thank you.
THE WRATH OF GRAPES: How Not to Start a Winery is softbound and has received terrific reviews and reception, selling everywhere it is offered. It is the trials and tribulations of starting a little winery; bittersweet in that it was published just before the economic collapse. See website for endorsements and reviews. The Kickstarter offering is at a 25% discount under retail. See www.volodelcorvo.com for details and endorsements and reviews. All copies will be personally signed with a thank you.
The Shirt: You have to have a shirt. These are quality silkscreened for comfort and durability 100% Cotton so order with a bit of shrinkage in mind. Men’s and Women’s sizes from small to xxl. The bookcover on the front and the Edmund Burke quote on the back.
Note: All purchasers of The Last American Alchemists in all forms will receive an email thank you with holiday decoration, so that it may be given as a gift for the holidays (prior to publication).
Risks and challenges
The team is ready to go. Printer and editors coordinated. I don’t see much risk.
The manuscript is humming. We have done this twice before and ready to roll.
There will be two snail mail fulfillments: All books and postcards will be sent with the exception of The Last American Alchemists and its EBook within a month of funding.
The publication date for LAA is set for May 1, 2014. The EBooks will be sent as soon as they are ready several weeks before that.
- (30 days)